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The Colorism of Darker-Skin Models in Fashion Industry

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Table of Contents

  • Diversity Issue
  • Impact of Colorism in the Fashion Industry
  • Impact On Consumers
  • Suggestions for Change in the Industry

Is colorism involving dark skin models and fashion companies when casting models in the fashion industry? Today, diversity is affecting in the fashion Industry but are these improvements enough? Do lighter skin models have a privilege in the industry? Is there enough representation of dark skin models in the fashion industry? Colorism is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “prejudice or discrimination against individuals with a dark skin tone, typically among people of the same ethnic or racial group”. Colorism is a symptom of racism, which started with slavery.

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Today, colorism plagues minority communities, which also plagues the entertainment and fashion industry. According to mic.com a study found that after looking at a fashion magazine for three minutes it caused 70% of women to feel depressed, guilty and shameful. (Powell, 2012). That means the average woman sees 400 to 600 advertisements per day and not many of those ads that represented dark models. As you can see in the chart above shows the increased percentages of models of color. These percentages include Asian, Hispanics, and black models. According to The Guardian “in a new report, 78.2% of all the models featured in Spring 2016’s fashion adverts were white. In a breakdown of the statistics, 8.3% of models featured in ads were black, 4% were Asian and 3.8% were Hispanic.” (Elan, 2016 )Which increased from 2015.

Diversity Issue

Colorism plagued the fashion industry since the black models began to pave their way and open more opportunities in the industry for other people of color. For example, model Naomi Sims was consistently turned down by agencies who told her she was too dark in the beginning of her career. (Chetty, 2019)

Colorism is also shown when people push for change in the industry. They often received negative feedback for their desire to help change adverting, according to Tracy Elise Ross who is an designer and actress she states ”While I was a contributing fashion editor at Mirabella and New York Magazine in the ’90s, I pushed for and encouraged the use of models of all colors in our shoots (which was often met with blank faces). (Wagner, 2018) She voiced her opinion and pushed what she wanted to see in magazines. applauded her for speaking out for her thought-provoking viewpoint. According to an in BBC model Leomie Anderson “says she’s faced racial discrimination in the modeling industry. She says, ‘lighter-skinned girls get more work than darker-skinned girls” She also states that “she has noticed some change but reckons ‘there’s a long way to go’ when it comes to giving work to darker-skinned models.” (Izundu, 2015)

Impact of Colorism in the Fashion Industry

The brand Fashion Nova targets mostly women and now recently men of color. If you scroll through Fashion Nova’s Instagram and website, you will notice there’s barley any dark skin women or black women in general. You can’t go on your Instagram without seeing reality stars, celebrities, influencers or everyday people who are mostly people of color promoting this brand.

Beauty YouTuber Jackie Aina was called-out of Fashion Nova on her YouTube channel. She alleged that the brand perpetuates colorism and sizeism via its Instagram page. According to Aina, she has addressed her concerns with the brand for a year due to the online retailer promoting unrealistic and non-inclusive beauty standards that do not align with her personal values and platform. Jackie states that she will no longer collaborate or support Fashion Nova after it refused to include more dark-skinned people on its Instagram page. Femestella.com sites It was literally fifty shades of beige, with a few models in the tan-deep category thrown in. Most of the models are either Hispanic, white, light-skinned, or racially ambiguous. It’s almost like Fashion Nova does the brown paper bag test before the models can work for them. How can you spend so much money marketing to Black women, but you can’t even put Black women of different skin? According to revelist.com dark-skinned Instagram model Atim Ojera, came forward with claims that the brand tokenized her after Aina brought light to its colorist Instagram practices. Then promptly ended her contract when the bad press died down. Let’s spread out all of these receipts. This leads to less revenue for the industry and categorizes the models.

Impact On Consumers

It is so vitality important for consumers to bring races into the fashion market, which keeps it a strong industry. Representation and inclusion of all people of many shades in fashion are necessary because fashion illustrates a tremendous part in developing how we view and value people. If the in the industry doesn’t present all various shades of people, then certain races will be ignored or devalued. Consumers can start feel devalued and overlooked which as well may result in consumers not supporting this brand or agency. Just like when consumers weren’t wearing or supporting certain designers’ clothing lines after expressing discriminating symbols of a certain race.

Consumers are impacted by colorism when they fail to find a reflection of themselves in the fashion industry which also affects consumers supporting or buying products in a partiture brand. It is hard to find that reflection because their skin tone shades are not truly represented in the fashion industry. This is an ongoing challenge for consumers. These are some of the challenges consumers face which stem from the runway. We must look for ways to lessen the impact on the fashion runway and give more opportunities to all shades. A fair representation of all consumers should be on the runway.

Suggestions for Change in the Industry

My suggestion for changing the negative impact of Colorism is to showcase the wonderful diversity in everyone. When women see other models dressed in clothing that looks like the consumers are more likely to buy the clothing because they have an example of what they will look like when they wear it. It also improves an individual’s mood and makes them feel more accepted. If we fix our opinions about different skin tones and races, we can fix this problem and make changes for the future of the runways and the fashion world.

There should be an equal number of races and shades in each ad or fashion show. For example have six Blacks and six Asians, also six Hispanic models walking in a show or for a photoshoot. There should be a variety of skin tones for each ethnic group. Also Hire more dark-skinned models for the runway and on social media, ads or websites. Because of this issue designer, Zac Posen used black models in his fashion show in the year of 2016. According to The Guardian“(Posen used black models exclusively for his New York fashion week show and the hashtag #Blackmodelsmatter on his Instagram). Whereas other parts of the industry are playing catch up; all the models at the Vetements and Balenciaga shows were white.”

I applause the designer Zac Posen for stepping up to try and rectify this issue. However, it would take a lot more designers to step up and do the same to bring more attention to this colorism on the runway. Since this is a global issue and affects many other ethnic groups other than black models. Having an equal number of other models from all backgrounds or ethnic groups should be seen in all fashion shows across the world not just in New York Fashion Week. 

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